Settlers to Be Indicted for Attacking Palestinian Photographers as Soldiers Looked On

Abbas Momani and colleague were allegedly attacked by six or seven settlers as they documented clashes between soldiers and Palestinian stone throwers.

Settlers attacking AFP photographer Abbas Momani in Beit El, March 2014.
AFP

A number of settlers from Beit El look set to be indicted this week for a March 2014 attack on a Palestinian photographer that allegedly took place with Israel Defense Forces soldiers looking on.

The attorney acting on behalf of photojournalist Abbas Momani was informed of the decision last week by the Jerusalem district prosecutor. The attorney was not told how many indictments would be filed.

Statements from Palestinians and IDF officers, along with video footage and photographs, seem to show that on March 7, 2014, a number of settlers attacked Momani while he was in his car with a colleague, documenting the weekly confrontation between IDF soldiers and Palestinian youths throwing stones by the Jalazun refugee camp in the West Bank. Six or seven settlers, some of whom had pistols drawn, ran toward the car, which was driving on the road that separates the refugee camp and the Beit El settlement. In order not to harm them, Momani stopped the car, which had “PRESS” written on it.

A few of the settlers started throwing stones at the car from short range, shattering the front windshield. The two photographers couldn’t leave the car because the settlers continued to throw stones at them. Momani received a slight injury to his hand from broken glass.

Two days later, Momani filed a complaint with the police. He did not hear of any developments in the case for nearly a year. The prosecution said the file had been mislaid by the police and prosecution, and then the case was reopened, although the Military Police closed its probe.

Witnesses said the attack was conducted in the presence of Israeli soldiers, who chose not to intervene, and that the attack was even documented by a soldier from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. That unit declined a request from the Military Police’s investigative unit to hand over the personal details of the soldier involved and the materials he filmed.

After the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit refused to provide the details of the soldier or release footage to the Military Police, an appeal was made to the chief military prosecutor to receive the materials. This was also rejected.

IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz told Haaretz that “the documentary unit does not exist to incriminate IDF soldiers.” Almoz said he asked the Military Police to try to find another source for the evidence, and they said they would check. Later, Almoz told the Military Police he didn’t know if his unit had the footage, because soldiers document operational activity but don’t save the thousands of hours filmed – only the documentation of the activities themselves.

Momani was also one of two photographers attacked by soldiers last September, following a funeral in the West Bank village of Beit Furik. The soldiers were filmed attacking Momani and breaking his camera equipment, and their commander was subsequently suspended from his post.